Human Evolution

Why should we look at human evolution?

  • To see if the dates given by anthropology and the evidence provided by human fossils validate or contradict what is stated in our Itihasas.
  • Astronomical dating of the Vedas and Itihasas indicates that the Saraswathi-Yamuna-Ganga River Civilization that flourished from about 20000 BC to 3000 BC, and that it was a pre-cursor to the Sindhu River Valley Civilization.
  • I believe that the Vedas belong to this period and that the Narmada, Krishna, Tungabhadra, Cauvery and Godavari River valleys also had their own civilizations at this time.
  • I believe that Sri Lanka, and Burma too had civilizations of their own at least around 3000 BC if not earlier.
  • A human skull was found in the Narmada Excavation in a layer of volcanic ash between 75000 and 750,000 years ago, closer to the 750000 boundary. It is either a homo erectus or a homo sapiens.

Tool Based Classification:

  • It is commonly believed that humans first used stones, then bronze and later iron to make tools with.
  • These lead to the names of old stone age (paleolithic) new stone age (neolithic), bronze age and iron age.
  • Iron age occured later in the cold climates and earlier in the warm climates. In the warmer climates, the charcoal heats to higher temperatures. (See Also : metallurgy)

In India, all tool ages live simultaneously. I have some stone tools in my kitchen, sitting next to my microwave oven and this sort of variety is even more true of my neighbours than it is of me. Anyone who excavated my stone tools and mud pots should not assume that I did not have microwaves and tupperware..

Finding vs Making based Classification:

  • People who find food on trees or in the earth and people who hunt wild animals are called hunter gatherers.
  • These people are called tribes and called less ‘civilized’ than the people who grow food and rear animals.
  • Similarly people who use tools of mass production consider themselves more developed than people who hand produce goods used for daily living like clothes and tables. Particularly because nuclear weapons and rockets cannot be hand produced with the technology available today.

The Hunter-Gatherers could not control the environment and so they adapted to it and did not ruin it. The Food-Growers were and are dependant on the weather. But they did learn to dam water and divert water courses and did alter the environment to a certain extent. Industrialized food growers have used chemical fertlizers and overtilled the land rendering it unusable for agriculture. Industrialization has resulted in depletion of ground water tables, pollution of air and water, globalisation and contributed to global warming.It is hard to say whether industrial societies are more ‘civilized’ or ‘progressive’ compared to hunter gatherer societies.

Notes and Links:

  1. How do we know how old a human fossil is? By using radioactive carbon dating. At about 50 – 60 000 years, then, the limit of the technique is reached (beyond this time, other radiometric techniques must be used for dating).
  2. Where was the oldest human fossil found? The Homo Sapiens Idaltu is a 160,000 year old sub-species of Homo Sapiens whose skull was found in Herto, Middle Awash, Ethiopia. These were very, very large robust people. The link gives a picture of the skull and an artist’s drawing of the person. Their skulls were larger than our skulls. “Radioisotopically dated to between 160,000 and 154,000 years ago, these new fossils predate classic Neanderthals and lack their derived features. The Herto hominids are morphologically and chronologically intermediate between archaic African fossils and later anatomically modern Late Pleistocene humans. They therefore represent the probable immediate ancestors of anatomically modern humans. Their anatomy and antiquity constitute strong evidence of modern-human emergence in Africa.” quoted from :
  3. How old is the oldest human fossil found in India? 600,000 years old, the skull of a 30-year old woman in the western Narmada region of Madhya Pradesh.Dr Arun Sonakia, director, Nagpur Circle, GSI was the one who discovered the skull along with other mammalian fossils in late 1982.  Explaining with a plaster cast of the skull, Sonakia pointed out the differences that evolution had wrought. ‘‘This skull has a gently sloping forehead with massive eyebrow ridges and a cranial capacity of 1,100cc. Prehistoric man had better visual faculties and less grey matter. The skull of modern man has a more vertical forehead and not such deep-set ridges. Other sensory faculties are more developed and the cranial capacity is 1,400-1,500cc, indicating the presence of more grey matter,’’ Sonakia remarked. Radio carbon dating could not be done on the skull because the process can’t be used on any fossil that is more than 40,000 years old. Sonakia and his team managed to date the antiquity of the skull through faunal dating – by analysing animal fossils found with the skull. These fossils are of animals that flourished between a certain period all across the world in Europe, Africa and Asia. They all belong to the Quartenary period. Fauna of this period is 18 lakh years old and younger. ‘‘We also used changes in the earth’s magnetic field to date the skull. These changes in the magnetic field take place over a long time and affect these fossils,’’ Sonakia explained. The cast of the skull along with other discoveries of GSI are on display at the India Habitat Centre as part of the GEOSAS Congress taking place in the city. ” quoted from :
  4. “The broken skull specimen of Homo erectus, first & only of its kind in India, discovered by Dr. Arun Sonakia, Ex-Director, Palaeontology Division, Geological Survey of India, Central Region, Nagpur is one of such rare collection. This skull was discovered on 5th December, 1982 in the middle of the Narmada valley in Hathnora, Madhya Pradesh. This Hathnora Skull fossil carries a double interest: It is the most ancient human remnant so far discovered in Indian subcontinent and It was discovered in situ which allow a precise determination of its stratigraphic, palaeontological and cultural context all attributable to the Middle Pleistocene (around 500,000 years ago) age in the geological time scale. The material is a part of the cranium which may be ascribed to a female individual at the age of thirty’s. The skull was studied by Arun Sonakia in 1982 and Marie-Antoinette de Lumley in 19841 based on morphological comparisons with similar fossils discovered in Europe and Asia. The study revealed that the Narmada Man was a Homo erectus i.e. archaic man. At that time, it was impossible to do CT scan. Now, with the help of Geological Survey of India, Prof. Henry de Lumley, Marie de Lumley, Amilie Vialet from the Institute of Human Palaeontology, Paris are working upon a project based on serial CT scan data of the skull.” quoted from : Pictures on GSI web-site. Excavations in the Central Narmada Basin.
  5. An article on the Out-Of-Narmada theory proposed by Dr. Sonakia.
  6. Article in Current Science published in 1998. ” Studies on lithostratigraphy, magnetostratigraphy and tephrastratigraphy reveal that Narmada Homo erectus is from a bed just above a formation of 0.73 Ma and at least 19 m below a layer of 74,000 BP. Fossils belonging to Hippopotamidae, Equidae, Stegodontidae, Suidae and Canidae are mainly relied upon for biozonation of the Narmada deposits. Fossils of these families collected along with the Homo erectus skull or from the same geological horizons containing the skull point to a Middle Pleistocene (in all probability its lower horizon) age of the Narmada Homo erectus. The discovery of Indian Homo erectus bridges the gap between African H. erectus in the west and Chinese and Javan H. erectus in the east and south east respectively. There is a general consensus of opinion that Afro-Asian H. erectus ranges in age from Lower Pleistocene to Middle Pleistocene. Indian H. erectus falls within this range.” 
  7. 100 fossilized dinosaur eggs found in Narmada Valley (This is not about human evolution directly….. but connects to the Age of the Deccan Plateau article in way.. I’ll move this link later.)
  8. “In 1982 a fossil hominid calvaria was found in a middle Pleistocene deposit in the central Narmada valley of Madhya Pradesh, India, and was assigned to the new taxon Homo erectus narmadensis. Subsequently, morphometric studies of the specimen were conducted by two separate research teams from France and the United States, both in collaboration with Indian colleagues. Results of the most recent study, which includes morphometric and comparative investigations, lead to the conclusion that Narmada Man is appropriately identified as Homo sapiens. While the calvaria shares some anatomical features with Asian Homo erectus specimens, it exhibits a broader suite of morphological and mensural characteristics suggesting affinities with early Homo sapiens fossils from Asia, Europe, and Africa as well as demonstrating that the Narmada calvaria possesses some unique anatomical features, perhaps because the specimen reflects the incoherent classificatory condition of the genus Homo.” quoted from :
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